Kenny faces selection dilemma, but Ireland’s number one jersey in safe hands

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Ireland boss Stephen Kenny Ireland may have a dearth of talent in which to pick ten outfield players. But at least that’s not the case when it comes to selecting his goalkeeper.

Between Gavin Bazunu, Caoimhin Kelleher and Mark Travers, Kenny has an embarrassment of riches between the sticks. At 20, 24 and 23 years young respectively, Ireland’s goalkeeper’s jersey is in safe hands for a number of years. 

Who goes on to become the outright number one is still a debate, however.

Heading into the Euro 2024 qualification campaign where few bookie free bet offers will be placed on Ireland making it to the finals, Kenny could have a selection dilemma on his hands.

Right now, Bazunu is in pole position. The 20-year-old Dubliner is reaping the rewards of choosing to leave Manchester City in search of regular action, playing every minute in the Premier League for Southampton so far this season.

Despite his tender age, Bazunu has been trusted ahead of the more experienced Alex McCarthy and largely impressed with several outstanding individual performances, albeit in a team that has conceded the third most goals, sit second bottom and ranks among the contenders to be relegated according to Irish football betting sites.

It’s a position that has cost Ralph Hasenhüttl his job of course, with the Austrian replaced by ex-Luton boss Nathan Jones before the World Cup. 

Bazunu will hope the upheaval which ultimately comes with a managerial change doesn’t result in him losing his place once domestic matters resume and his international boss will be eagerly awaiting to see what transpires too.

Bazunu isn’t the only Irish Premier League goalkeeper right now though. Along the South coast of England at Bournemouth, Mark Travers is getting plenty of game time too.

Travers has had an up-and-down time at the Vitality Stadium so far it’s fair to say. 

Having begun the season under the then manager Scott Parker, the 23-year-old was the unfortunate soul to be in goal for Liverpool’s 9-0 demolition of the Cherries – a result which led to the departure of Parker and Travers losing his place. 

But he did at least start Bournemouth’s four games before the season paused for the World Cup replacing club number one, Neto who was ruled out until the end of the year. 

It’s a spell that earned him praise from Gary O’Neill – now confirmed as permanent Bournemouth manager – and allowed him to regain his confidence.

Like Bazunu, Travers will be hoping to retain his place when the Premier League gets back underway on Boxing Day. 

Clearly, getting a regular role in the Liverpool side is unlikely for their Irish teammate Caoimhin Kelleher. Displacing Alisson at Liverpool represents another challenge entirely.

For now, at least, the Reds number two is limited to cup games with his penalty-saving heroics enough for him to gain recognition and earn praise thus far.

Whether or not the odd game here and there will be enough to satisfy his ambitions long-term – and compete with Bazunu and Travers – is another thing though.

At some stage in his career, the Cork man will want to be getting first-team action on a more regular basis, a point not lost on Republic boss, Stephen Kenny.

A talented goalkeeper he may be, Kenny is right to point out the need for Kelleher to go out and prove it by getting games under his belt, just as Bazunu and Travers have done. And at 24 that time is not far away.

Regardless of Kelleher’s next step and whether Bazunu and Travers retain their respective places, they’ve all proven their worth at different times. 

And while Stephen Kenny may have a job on his hands in choosing the one to hang his hat on, there’s no doubt the Irish goalkeeping position is in safe hands for some time to come.